I often find myself thinking about people who reinvent themselves. People who take risks, push themselves out of their comfort zone and see greater success – whatever that may mean – then they would have achieved if they’d walked only a specific and expected path. Sometimes, what is easy is not always the best path to take to get to where you need to be.
When I was a kid I was regularly told I could be whatever I wanted to be. I never really settled on anything other than being a writer. I’ve spoken in here before about how my imagination was engaged as a youngling by the work of Maurice Sendak in his story “Where the Wild Things Are.” It was one of those moments when I was too young to understand what I wanted beyond wanting to do that. Entertain. Scoop you up, transport you to a place where fantasy was reality and any dream could be made real.
Recently I’ve come to the realisation that I need to start the search for a new job. I’ve been contracting for almost a year now, producing lunches for an independent think tank. It’s a great company to work for, but unfortunately my position will no longer exist after February/March. It will change into something else and while I’ve been told I’m welcome to apply for it, I’ve also been told the position will be opened up to candidates both internal and external.
It’s also been a bit rough. Going from leadership to a role that is at best entry level is a massive step backwards, not only in authority, but autonomy. I’ve gone from being directly responsible for a team of 12 people to unable to make any decisions regarding speakers, content, or how to market the events. I’ve gone from almost complete autonomy to being micro-managed daily. It’s a job that could have been perfect, if I’d been trusted to do what I was hired to do.
The job has shown me two major things. Firstly, it’s shown me the debilitating power of fear in the workplace. If you’re afraid of the “new” you’re business stagnates and ultimately leaders who lead from that position cling uselessly to what it was 5 years ago, ignoring what the world is becoming. The second is that reinvention is necessary, both on a personal and a career perspective.
It’s been an interesting lesson. Particularly the one on fear. I’ve spent so much of my life afraid of succeeding – more so than I’ve ever been afraid of failing – that I’ve allowed myself to stagnate. It’s been easier to spend my days working for other people. Without blowing my own horn, I’m very good at making other people money, sadly a skill not required at a not-for-profit. As a conference producer I’ve made millions for the companies I’ve worked at over the years. As a leader, I helped turn a start up company with 6 people into a thriving new business, where by the time I left I had a team reporting to me, both directly and indirectly, almost 3 times the size of the current office I work in.
But I’ve always believed that success was due to other influences. I was able for the most part to deflect the success as a “company” thing, rather than a “me” thing.
When I write, when I let myself just put words on paper, my writing seems to connect with people. I’ve mentioned before the “little gay erotic romance” story I was working on. It continues to gather feedback from people on a gay message board I’ve posted snippets of it to. It’s not so much the “yeah, this is good” or “wow, that chapter was hot” that is reinforcing my ability to write, but the posts that keep coming saying “where’s the next chapter” or “please tell me you’re still working on this, is it an eBook yet, where can I buy it.”
Given the snippets those readers are getting are unedited, raw, first draft, I’ve either tapped a potential market, or I’m probably not as bad as I think I am when it comes to writing.
Yesterday I was redoing my resume, a most tedious task. I hate job hunting, and I’m not a massive fan of change. While I was putting together my lists of jobs, and past successes I realised that reinventing myself isn’t just for the hope someone in the corporate world will pay me money. I have the opportunity to reinvent myself into the writer I’ve always wanted to be.
Writers who are successful and able to provide for themselves are rarer than dragons testicles these days. I find it strange when authors tell of how hard it is to make a living, particularly as publishing companies seem to be making hundreds of millions a year.On top of that you have eBooks and Indie Authors. I think that’s part of the problem.
Indie Authors may lack the resources of the major publishing houses, but that’s really no excuse for producing badly edited products. Yes, we need beta testers, and people we can trust to read the work, give ideas and suggest that changing a characters name backwards and forwards is distracting to the audience. But more importantly I think Indie Authors need to reinforce in themselves that independent or not, what they are writing is a commercial product. For a product to sell, it needs to be the best it can be.
I’m becoming a big fan of workshopping my writing. Having others read it, and taking their opinions on board during the editing stage. In a way, it’s no different to what major companies do when they are setting up a new product for the market. Focus group, work shop, research, intelligent design. Whatever you want to call it, is the key to reinventing yourself and the products you create.
I’ve mentioned previously that I’m soon to begin a course that for 6 months will workshop my first foray into fantasy fiction writing. What I’ve also decided is I will be writing Calden Cove my “little gay erotic romance story” as well. It may be a more difficult book to find beta testers for, and it may prove a little hard to find people who will agree to work shop it, but part of the journey I’ve set myself over the last few years is to become a successful self published Indie Author and Calden Cove is just the first step in that journey of reinvention.